- Movie Rating -

Oh God! You Devil! (1984)

| November 7, 1984

The infinite possibilities of Oh, God! as a series boggle the mind.  So many things could be done, so many things could be said, so many issues could be explored.  I was delighted by the sparkling originality of the first movie, but I was disappointed in the second which was little more than a pale retread.  But the third movie, Oh God, You Devil! bucks the sequel trend by trying to do something new.  It works, it’s funny, it’s charming and I got involved.

The story is reminiscent of a Frank Capra movie in that it deals with human frailty but at the same time offers the message of being humble and true to yourself and your fellow man.  The fellow man here is Bobby Shelton whom we meet as a child when his father asks God to watch over his son.  Well, God does just that, but years later we find Bobby (Ted Wass) as a struggling musician who is having trouble supporting his wife (Roxanne Hart).  So he makes a near-fatal desire that he would sell his soul to The Devil for a break.

Well, the Devil does show up, calling himself Harry O. Tophet and he makes Bobby a deal that he soon finds out in, indeed, a deal with the Devil.  Suddenly Bobby is transformed into the established rock star Billy Wayne who has all the money and fame in the world, but of course, his world soon comes apart.

The novel approach this time is that God and The Devil are played in a dual role by George Burns.  What is amazing is that Burns’ timing is so good that he is able to play both roles against each other and still manage his legendary comic timing.  There is a climactic battle between God and The Devil at the end of this movie that doesn’t depend on thunderbolts or grand apocalyptic special effects but on a poker game, a high-stakes game with Bobby’s soul on the line.  In this low-key approach, Burns gets to play comedy and drama at the same time.

Burns has just as much fun in the Devil role as he did with God in the first movie.  Tophet is a low-key troublemaker, proud of the problems that he has caused for mankind.  And packed into a red tailored suit and smoking a cigar (“I like smoke,” he says), he is perfect as a man manipulating a showbiz career.  It might have been a stunt but you really come to fear what this troublemaker can do.  And then the counterpoint is God who is not surprised by anything that Tophet does.  He’s seen at the tricks and all of the manipulations.  Their scene together is like two brothers who have spent a lifetime at odds.

I didn’t expect a second sequel to involve me this much, not just the two performance by George Burns but the story itself.  I got involved with Bobby’s problem and I was moved by the very Capra-eque message at the end.  This is a delightful surprise.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy